With the Offensive Behaviour in Football Bill now law, it is up to Police Scotland to tackle those who are deemed in breach of the new legislation no matter what club they support.
We contacted Strathclyde Police – before the union of the Police services into one force – and asked for an interview with the new Head of FOCUS, Superintendent Stephen McAllister and what follows is a feature-length EXCLUSIVE interview by Andy Muirhead with the man tasked with heading up the unit whose main focus [sorry for the pun] is to rid our game of sectarianism and the trouble around our games.
AM: So Stephen you took over from Superintendent David Brand in July last year, he is now with the Scottish FA. When you came into the job what was your remit?
SMcA: Well the remit was basically continue as we were although the caveat being that we should be more intelligence driven. I think what had happened, up until my starting is that it was quite important, I think, for the police. We’d got a new bit of legislation, to ingrain that legislation into our day-to-day working, and to be operationally effective in terms of the use of that legislation. The legislation came in March, so we’d started using the legislation from March last year until the end of last season. So there was a lot of work done to get the organisation throughout Scotland used to that legislation.
When new legislation comes in, it doesn’t matter what it is, there’s always a lapse between getting it on the statute books and police officers becoming comfortable with that. So you find what happens is there’s a little bit of effort put in actually to get people get comfortable with legislation, make sure they’re using it appropriately, to make sure they’re gathering evidence appropriately, they’re putting cases into the Procurator Fiscal, that it’s done properly as well.
So, I’d done a lot of that, we had to keep that going, but I think we’d got to a point where that’s fine, but you need to be more, what we would say, intelligence driven policing. So in terms of how we used the resources in here about are we going to the right games, are we going to too many games? So that was the first bit of it.
The second bit of it around about was mapping risk groups and risk individuals who would use football as a cover for violence, disorder, and antisocial behaviour. That hadn’t really been done before, so it was about grabbing that. So I think we’re on the cusp of that now to make sure that our deployments are intelligence-led and we’re not just coming up to a game on a Saturday afternoon because it’s quite good to have a couple of Focus officers there. Actually, we’re turning up there because there’s value and we’re needed to be there. So that, I suppose, is the kind of remit that I was given by my assistant chief constable when I took over.
At the moment, as we move forward at Police Scotland, we’re very, very much about mainstreaming the work that we do throughout Scotland. We talk about quality of service, it doesn’t really matter if you’re in Glasgow, Aberdeen, or Forfar, that as a community, that you’re getting access to as much as you need of the specialist assets, we’re now moving into Operational Support Division for Scotland within a specialist services directorate there.
So that’s the next phase of that to make sure we are intelligence driven and those who need access to a skill base or knowledge are getting access to it.
AM: When I spoke to David last year, he stated one of the main focuses for the unit was to spread their knowledge between the different police services. Obviously, there’s now one police service. Since you’ve started the job, have you found the other police services throughout Grampian, West Lothian, and Borders are following the same guidelines, the same path, everything like that from the Focus Unit and from Strathclyde?
SMcA: Well, the reality is, the way we’re structured around about events planning, of which football is an event, is that each event, if it merits police attendance is going to have an event commander or match commander.
So, match commanders are aware of the services that we can provide to them. So it’s not as dictating to them, in effect what they’ll say through our network is we’ve got a game on Saturday, we would like some attendance by your officers. In fact, we pretty much turn up as and when requested to do so. I think where we are now is there’ll be a point where we say actually you probably don’t need us at that particular game, you’re more than capable of policing that environment with your own resources, and what we’re doing now is Scotland is now going to be run locally by 14 territorial policing divisions. The responsibility for managing all the local policing functions will sit with that divisional commander.
Now there’ll be a number of specialisms through Operational Support Division that are available to that commander, one of which will be Football Coordination Unit, and so we will work with those single points of contact within these 14 divisions really to discuss what is required depending on the event or football match that they’re managing.
So it’s not always dictating to them about, ‘this is what you need to do,’ it’s them actually coming to us to say, ‘well actually, here’s what we’d like and actually, you’ve got some of the specialist knowledge and experience that could come in and assist us with that.’
AM: When FOCUS was created, how many officers did it have at the start?
SMcA: We’re a very small unit. We were set up and we currently have only … and this is the myth, I mean I speak to a lot of people about this. There’s 14 of us who do this full-time, we’re not all based in Glasgow.
We have some people in other parts of the country who actually are linked to us, they actually have a day job, but they also help us out in terms of match day deployments and things of that nature.
What we do though, and what we’re continuing to do, is brigade the resources throughout Scotland. What we’ll do is we’ll start to train some people up throughout the rest of Scotland, just to give them a little bit extra assistance with the legislation and make sure they’re comfortable with that.
We also use cameras, we’ve got the credit card camera, we’ve got the handheld camera and there’s a certain skill to be able to use them, particularly to gathering evidence that will support any report we’ve got for Procurator Fiscal.
So we do training, but we’re embarking in much more training throughout Scotland. So in effect, local divisions will almost get to a point where they’re self-sufficient in a lot of this work and we can probably take a little bit of a step back; coordinate some of the activity around about Scotland.
We’ve been very much involved in a lot of post-match investigations and when I say post-match, I don’t mean necessarily activity that takes place at the ground because actually, if you look at your average football game in Scotland, it normally takes place safely and there’s really no issues around about it.
We do have some issues pre-match and sometimes post-match with some violence and disorder, what we tend to get is the post-match investigation. So a lot of the skills in my own team are around about how do we gather evidence to support that, but also the offensive behaviour stuff, the online stuff.
So again, we’ve probably become knowledge experts in terms of the online hate crime which has been linked to football as well, and that can link us into lots of other stuff. So there’s not that many of us.
What we’ve tried to do is influence and offer support to our colleagues throughout Scotland and that will continue. Ultimately, I would imagine that my team, in terms of operationally, will probably attend less matches, but we will have people who can do that job, if it’s required.
To be honest with you, there’ll be many games in Scotland that will not require that type of attention. They’ll want us do the training, coordinate post-match investigations, they’ll want us to do all the online enquiries that we get in that we might pick up from a wide variety of sources, but we’ve got plenty of people who will send us stuff to say, ‘I heard this has happened. I’ve seen this online, I’m offended by it or I think it’s offensive, can you have a look at it?’ We look at it, we triage it and we decide what we’re going to do in relation to that.
AM: We’re a year on from when the legislation was passed, from your perspective, from the police perspective, do you think it’s been a success so far in regard to the way it’s been implemented, suspects, perpetrators of online hate crimes at football, match days, anywhere else, has that been a success?
SMcA: Well, Andy, clearly I’m going to say it is and that’s the debate because you’ve got plenty of other people who will say it isn’t, but I can put some caveats onto that. I mean first and foremost, in terms of the legislation, I think what the legislation has done for the police, first of all, with the online stuff; my view with that is that all the legislation has done there has caught up with the reality of what we’re having to face.
Prior to that, what you had was you had the Telecommunications Act. The Telecommunications Act, statutory law is very specific. What the Telecoms Act said was it was about sending a message, so that could be sending an email, which is offensive. It could be posting of a letter that’s offensive, but of course where we are with Facebook, Twitter and all the rest of it, and all the online forums, you don’t actually have to send a message to anybody, you just have to post it.
So, what the legislation has done there, prior to that it was very difficult to prove a charge with Twitter, Facebook, or anything like that, but what the legislation is saying, actually if you post it, it’s out there for people to see and it’s offensive, then we can take action against you. So I think that’s been the first thing.
The second thing about it, I would say is, which is quite important is that prior to the legislation, particularly Section 1 of the Offensive Behaviour Act, we’d relied very much on common law and it was breach of the peace, which has become significantly watered down. We’ve got a lot of statutory legislation around breach of the peace now. What was happening was a lot of cases that were being brought to court were ending in ‘not proven’ or ‘not guilty’ or actually there were no proceedings. When we looked at that, what we were being told by the judiciary was actually, you’ve not proved your charge because we got to the ridiculous state of affairs where the classic is the two cops BOP, breach of the peace. So two police officers, wherever they are, say they’re in a football stadium, somebody is acting in a manner that they think is offensive, so they arrest that individual, they go to court. They go through the court and the lawyer turns up and says okay, who was offended by that bit of behaviour. Of course, what we haven’t had is anyone saying they were offended. Actually, what was happening, the police were becoming the moral conscience of that. So what was happening was the police were having to say, ‘Do you know what, actually I was offended by it.’
You’d get these ridiculous debates about, ‘How long have you been in the police?’ ’20 years.’ ‘You’re trying to tell me at no point in your career you’ve had this kind of abuse …’ blah-de-blah and all the rest of it. ‘Are you really seriously telling me that you as an individual were offended by this?’ So it got a little bit ridiculous.
So of course tests of the new legislation, it’s almost a statutory breach of the peace, if you like, all we are doing is bringing that information and attention to the Procurator Fiscal who subsequently decide well, let’s take it to court. The stand-up test is would the reasonable individual be offended by that?
We don’t make that decision anymore, the court makes that decision and the court should be making that decision. I think that’s where a lot of people miss out or don’t quite see why the legislation came about because they don’t like it, which is fine if you like legislation, debate and complain all the rest of it. I think to understand why it came about is quite important and actually to me, it’s about the legislation catching up with the reality of what’s out there.
So from our point of view, it’s easy for us to use a legislation, it’s very specific, statutory legislation is very specific about how you prove a charge and if you prove the elements of the charge, it should go to court and then you’re at the mercy of the court whether they accept that evidence or not.
So as a piece of legislation I think it has been very effective. I don’t know if you’ve dug out and have got the Scottish government figures in terms of that, but the figures in terms of action taken on police reports linked to legislation are astronomically high. You wouldn’t find a piece of legislation where it is that high and the conviction rate, albeit a lot of cases are still to go through court is extremely high as well for a piece of statutory legislation.
So operationally, I don’t think you can debate that it’s not been effective because it has been. Now whether people agree with that or feel the need for it as another debate, but operationally, from a police perspective, it’s been a very effective piece of legislation.
AM: Your predecessor said the bill is Scotland’s chance to bring … I’ll read it word for word, to make football about football again and bring back the pride in the game. Putting aside Scotland’s hopes and so on, do you feel that still stands?
SMcA: I think there’s an element of what you’re trying to do there and as I say, we’re not the moral conscience of the public. I have policed football and gone to football since I was a wee boy, I love football, and I do think there are occasions where there’s behaviour there that is just unacceptable and people use football, particularly in the West of Scotland, but elsewhere as well for a completely different agenda, it becomes politicised.
People are pushing their own social views at it and actually, although I understand that, I don’t agree with it, particularly in a democratic environment where if you’re not happy about something you can go and protest and demonstrate and all the rest of it providing you get the correct permissions to do that, of course, but you can do that. I do think sport should be about sport.
I mean I’ve got a six year old daughter and I would love to take her to football. She’s getting to that stage where, and I’m obsessed sadly about football, she’s getting to that stage where she would quite like to come along. I go to lots of games and I think I don’t know if I’m that comfortable, even in the family section by some of the stuff going on around about me.
So I do think it is an opportunity to try and reset the bar in terms of behaviours within a sporting context, so I think it’s a great opportunity to do that.
As I say, some people don’t like that. Some people have a view that they can go along to a sporting event and behave any which way they want to because they get 90 minutes to blow some steam off, but I do think you need to have some guidelines about what is acceptable and is not acceptable so we don’t tap into that, offending people round about us.
Clearly, when we’ve got all these games live on the telly, we’ve seen it at Berwick recently as well, being picked up on the mic and a national broadcaster having to apologise for what’s coming across the airways. I mean that impacts on Scotland, there’s no doubt about that. Compare and contrast last night [Scotland defeat to Serbia] to the good news story of Scotland supporters cleaning the snow off the pitch, I mean that went all around the world. I’ve just spoken to the cops that were there last night and they went, ‘you couldn’t get better publicity for Scotland doing that,’ and then we rolled over and let Serbia beat us as well so we’re very good visitors.
So I do think it gives us that opportunity to reset the bar in terms of what’s acceptable again, without being that moral conscience and going in and saying to people how they can and cannot behave. I just think the legislation gives us the ability to try to improve behaviour within a sporting context and I think it’s happening.
AM: You talk about resetting the moral compass or code or level within football, but shouldn’t that be spread across society as well, given the fact there are many issues where there’s drunkenness, drug abuse, everything like that which causes significant crime on its own, away from football. Do you think obviously a lot of the fans’ groups and critics of the Offensive Behaviour Bill have started saying why is it specifically targeting football?
SMcA: But it’s not, Andy. I mean if you look at all the other aspects of legislation, the Section 74 legislation, which is about the aggravated hate crime and all the rest of it. That legislation has been there prior to the Offensive Behaviour Act.
So, in reality, those other aspects of anti-social behaviour are actually being dealt with, but what the legislation has done has said here’s a bit of legislation that allows you to deal with that in a sporting context, there’s plenty of other legislation that allows us to deal with the public order context, hate crime. I mean the whole drive with Strathclyde Police, certainly in the last five years, as we move into the Police Service of Scotland, is about the reduction of violent disorder and abusive behaviour within communities.
So, I know what they’re saying in relation to that and feel like we’re targeting them because all that other work that they’re talking about is actually mainstream, it’s par for the course of what police do. So this isn’t about us singling them out and forgetting about everything else, it’s almost about catching up with some of the behaviours that we have seen occurring in and around football – and I’m not just talking about stadium.
In fact, some of the most recent stats will actually show that the action we’re taking, I don’t mean just FOCUS, I mean Scotland, relates to activity on going to a game or coming away from a game.
Actually, the event itself is relatively easy and it’s not a massive challenge for us, but actually the train on the way there can be quite a nasty and unpalatable experience for people and that’s happened to me being on a train between Glasgow and Edinburgh, or the underground and being next to a wide variety of different people, some of which are just behaving really poorly.
So, I think we’re catching up, I don’t think we’re singling out, that would be my view, but clearly others would have perhaps a different view of that.
AM: One of the specific groups that has come about since the bill or since the bill was first talked about is a group called ‘Fans against Criminalisation’. It just seems as though it’s specifically Celtic fans that are behind this group. They had a few talks with Motherwell fans and some Rangers fans, but never any Rangers groups. Now they’ve stipulated that the bill was only to single out specific support, whether it’s Celtic, whether it’s Motherwell, to equalise them with the Rangers fans previous to that, what are your views on that?
SMcA: Yeah, that’s jumping on the band wagon of a conspiracy theory because actually if you look at legislation, I notice it doesn’t actually mention anything about sectarian behaviour, there’s no definition of that. It talks about offensive behaviour and in reality if you look to all the clubs in Scotland, no surprise the bigger clubs are the ones that have got the most arrests.
The bigger clubs are the ones that have the biggest number of football banning orders. The concept of this bit of legislation has been brought about purely to bring equality amongst number of arrests.
I find it quite bizarre, I do, I find it quite a strange assertion because the reality is police officers are police officers, they go out, they do what it says on the tin, we enforce legislation and whether it’s at Celtic Park or Ibrox.
AM: With regards to the Threatening Communications Act section, Section 2, we’ve heard in the media and likewise from press releases, that it’s individuals that have been picked up by the police through comments posted on Facebook, Twitter and so on. Some people that I’ve talked to are asking why they’re not targeting the specific sites, the forums and message boards. Obviously as soon as a Facebook page goes up folk report it and then Facebook either decide to close it or the police get involved and so on, but why aren’t the specific forums and message boards like ‘Follow Follow’, ‘The Huddle Board’, ‘Vanguard Bears’, a lot of the other clubs, because some fans and some others believe these are the breeding grounds to these individuals.
SMcA: I think when we do speak to the moderators of a lot of the boards, what I would say, from what I’ve seen in the time that I’ve been here, that there has been an improvement. I think the self-policing that we see on these boards is far better than say two years ago or whenever. I think it’s an interesting debate about do you target individuals or do you target the actual message board itself?
I think targeting the message board is a little bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut on. I think in terms of freedom of speech and things of that nature, to go out and try and take down The Huddleboard or Vanguard Bears, I think would be completely disproportionate. I don’t actually think for a minute we’d be allowed to do it. So I think there’s an element of we hope and we rely on a lot of these boards to start to become much more self-placing and I think we’re seeing that.
In terms of targeting of individuals, what tends to happen there, Andy, is that we respond to complaints, so what we don’t do, and there’s a myth here that I’ve got a whole load of people who sit and trawl through every post on every website, I mean it’s just ludicrous.
What tends to happen is, and again, because we’re very open with what we do, folk will phone us up, they’ll write a letter in or they’ll actually go through our email address and say, ‘I’ve come across this comment on this particular website, I’m really unhappy about it and I’d like you to investigate it.’
What we then do is we triage that, so we come back, we say, ‘Right, okay what we’re going to do …’ and there’s a variety of ways of responding to that. Actually, you can post a warning, you can go out with your footprint of Strathclyde Police or Police Service of Scotland, and you can post a warning on to say, ‘Actually, no, that’s unacceptable,’ or you can go a little bit deeper and say, ‘Actually, that is really offensive. Not only that, there’s a threat associated with whatever’s going on there. That’s unpalatable and that’s unacceptable. As a consequence of that, we have a full scale enquiry into that which will hopefully result in the individual that’s posted that being identified and charged.’
We don’t actually charge that many people with the online stuff because we triage it in an appropriate fashion, but I think yes we do have relationships with the moderators on some of these sites. There is an understanding about what they should be looking for and there’s an expectation that should improve the way they police that site in terms of offensive behaviour.
We will conduct individual enquiries, but it’s normally when we receive a complaint in relation to that, and we take the focus on the more offensive stuff and also ones that have got a genuine threat and risk associated with them.
We’re not sitting here trawling the internet looking to be offended. I speak to people a lot who will make comments or who write in here and say, ‘I went onto this site …’ Celtic supporters go on to a Rangers site or vice versa, ‘why are you doing that, are you just looking to be offended.’ It’s like if you don’t agree with that particular point of view, and you don’t agree with it and you’re not a fan of that club, why are you going on there almost trying to find things that you can get worked up and offended about so you can point the finger and then complain about it. Stick to your own website, but we do accept there are individuals who are very unpalatable in terms of things they’ll push through online and if we come across that or our attention is brought to that, we will have an investigation. If that results in somebody being charged then fair enough, but it’s not a question of us going out there and targeting individuals, that’s not the way we operate.
We respond to complaints and we hope that individuals, who are in charge of these sites, start to self-police I do think, I’ve got no doubt in looking at where we were a year, 18 months ago to where we are now, that that’s actually happened, particularly on Facebook and Twitter as well.
AM: Now talking about self-policing online, I understand some of the stadiums and around the grounds, a lot of the clubs like Celtic, Rangers, elsewhere, have brought in this notion of self-policing also. Do you think that’s a success?
SMcA: I think it could be a success up to a point and I would welcome that and I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen supporters get involved with other supporters. That can go wrong, that can get quite antagonistic, but I would actively encourage individuals if they’re unhappy about something to bring it to a steward’s attention or bring it to police attention.
I think you need to be careful about taking that because there are some fans’ groups who completely want to self-police the area that they’re in. I think that’s quite dangerous and from watching on the continent where that happens, they almost become no-go areas for police and stewards and not only police and stewards, more importantly medical people who have to negotiate getting assistance in and getting people out and I wouldn’t like to see it go down that line.
Again, this is about a partnership between the fans, the stewards, the clubs, the police as well, and the only way you’ll make it work is that everyone buys into that.
AM: There have been certain allegations thrown about by certain groups towards their own clubs that they’re colluding with the police in regard to ‘handing over’ information willingly and so on. The clubs do have to give the police a certain amount of information, but they can’t give the full-blown personal details, the full bhoona as such, without a court order.
For example the Green Brigade, they’ve stipulated on at least four or five occasions in press releases that the club are actively trying to oust them from the stadium and to try and get rid of them with the Strathclyde Police help. I can already see you’re shaking your head there, what’s your opinion on the collusion part, first of all?
SMcA: Right, right, I’ll explain to you how that information sharing typically works. We have, as in the police, have information sharing protocols with actually not every club in Scotland, but a fair amount of them.
Now, what does that mean? Actually, it’s mostly a one-way street actually, it’s mostly us giving information to the clubs. When I say we give information to the clubs, when we … the people next door run the Scottish Football Banning Authority, so when somebody is arrested, whether it’s a football related matter or gets a football banning order, it comes through there.
So we will know fairly early on if somebody’s bail condition is not to attend Celtic home games or any Rangers game, or whatever. So we’ll know that. We’ll know that they’ve been given a two-year football banning order and the club wouldn’t necessarily know that. The individual may be a season ticket holder or might have bought tickets or whatever, or they might be going to Turin.
So what we do is we say to the club here you go, as part of the information sharing protocol, Joe Bloggs is now subject to a football banning order, he’s a season ticket holder at Celtic Park. You need to be aware of that because if the club aren’t aware of that then what actually happens if that individual knowingly gets into the ground and breaches a football banning order or breaches bail, actually, that has an impact on the club because what the club haven’t done is they haven’t taken, I suppose, due-diligence in order to ensure they have to comply with a court order. So they then have to withdraw the season ticket holder or impose a club ban on that individual.
Usually you’ll find if somebody gets charged at a game, we will usually let the club know to say, ‘Do you know Willy was locked up at Cowdenbeath on Wednesday night, thanks very much.’ So the club might decide, it’s entirely up to them, the club might decide do you know what, we’re going to put a banning order on you, a local banning order on you, you’re not going to go to any of our games until you’ve sorted your legal stuff out. Once you’ve done that then we’ll review that. So we’re duty bound to tell the club that.
Once the club have that information and the club then become aware that that individual is either in breach or about to breach a banning order, they actually have to come back to us and say, ‘Do you know Willy’s bought tickets for the game next week,’ or, ‘He’s booked up to watch us play in Amsterdam.’ So we now know he’s liable to breach that banning order, that’s going to impact on us and in fact, we don’t want somebody to be caught breaching a banning order and the club have sold him a ticket. So it puts the club in an awkward position.
So what we would then do, particularly with … we would go and speak to that individual or we’d letter them and say, ‘It’s come to our attention, blah-de-blah-de-blah, we don’t want you breaching your banning order because actually that’s just going to make things worse for you because you’re going to get reported for the breach of the banning order. You may have a six month banning order and actually, you may end up with an eighteen month order.’
So we letter them, occasionally the letter comes back, because we do it recorded delivery, or they’ve moved on so then we go and look for them. We purely go and look for them to make them aware that they’re aware of what their banning conditions are and that they should not breach those banning conditions because we don’t want them to breach it.
If we know somebody is liable to breach their conditions and we haven’t taken any action to do that, to prevent that happening, then actually … and then they breach it, they say ‘you knew what we were going to do, you knew I had a ticket for that game, why didn’t you tell me I couldn’t …’
Of course that gets twisted around and it’s like the club are colluding with the police again and our own fans. That’s not the case at all, the information sharing protocol is mostly one way, it’s mostly us giving information to the clubs, as you need to do in order to prevent the club allowing one of their fans, or a group of their fans who are banned, from breaching that banning order.
So that’s about a partnership approach. It’s not a case of, as we have heard and we’ve seen, and I’ve read it online as well, that somebody makes an accusation that Celtic Football Club, for instance, want the police to do their dirty work for them, they’re not prepared to take that onboard and deal with their own fans, which is nonsense. They’d want us to come along and actually lock up 400 or 500 people and get them all banned from the stadium. It’s just a ridiculous assertion.
So yeah, I’d like to put that one to bed in terms of that because that’s simply not happening. We have to give the clubs information about people who are banned or bailed not to attend football matches and as a consequence of that, the clubs’ hands are tied. If they’re aware that that person is getting access to the stadium, has got a season ticket, has bought tickets, we need to have an investigation into that. We do that sometimes, the club do it as well and sometimes the club will go and say to them, ‘Actually, you’re banned, we’re cancelling your season ticket until that ban’s sorted out,’ or, ‘actually, those two tickets you bought for the cup final, you’re not getting them now because we know you’re banned form going to football.’
Of course, to me what’s happening, Andy, and I think this is quite … I’ve got stacks to prove this, we’re not locking up any more people than we did previously. In fact, if you compare where we are from March last year to just now to the previous year, we’ve actually arrested less people at football matches in Scotland for offences that would be liable to get you banned. So we’re marginally down, so we’re not … okay there’s been no foreign games, which has been helpful, and that I would accept, but we’re actually arresting less and less people.
What’s happening is more people are getting convicted and what’s happening with that is more people are getting football banning orders.
Three years ago there was 33 football banning orders, or so, last year there was 90 odd, so people who previously behaved in a particular way and there was no sanction, are now getting sanctioned and they don’t like it. I totally understand that. So the reaction to me isn’t … some people don’t like legislation, I accept that, but the reaction on the ground is actually I now cannot go and watch the football club, I’m not happy with this, I’m getting banned, I can’t go and buy tickets for that game. So that’s where the reaction that I see on the ground is coming from now.
I think there’s people who are agitating in amongst that as well, for whatever reasons, I don’t know why, clearly people who like to do that, and you always get that in society, they seem to get a position within a group where they have influence and they quite like that. Actually they’re not doing it for their love of football, they’re doing it because they likely to be a bit of a pain in the ass at times.
So the reaction that I’m seeing on the ground is because people are getting convicted, and people are getting banned now, but they will come with a whole load of other reasons about not liking the legislation, about police harassment, about clubs colluding against their own fans. I’m thinking could somebody please explain to me what’s in it for the club doing that, what’s in it for the police doing that because nobody ever can give me any cogent explanation as to why we or football clubs enable that because all they’re doing is reducing their customer base. It doesn’t make any sense.
AM: Now obviously, the main focus for this bill has always been Celtic and Rangers because they are, as you said previously, the biggest or two biggest clubs in the country. Other fans around the country Dundee United, Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen, all say FOCUS was only created … the Behaviour Bill was only created because of the Old Firm problem. Do you see it like that?
SMcA: Well I think interestingly, if you look at stats, you’ll find that Hibs unfortunately are right up there in terms of arrests in football banning orders.
So, I can understand that perspective because when you look at the landscape of Scottish football you’ve got two massive football clubs and you’ve got some other big clubs in there, but compared to Celtic and Rangers there’s nothing near them anywhere else in Scotland.
So, there’s no doubt that the number of games that we attend and the people that have been arrested Celtic and Rangers are very much our big players in relation to that, but they’re not the only ones.
If I was to tell you that Falkirk have a group called ‘Falkirk Fear’ and Hamilton have got a small group of individuals who are fairly young, who get involved in some disorder prior to games, there was 27 of them arrested in Hamilton town centre a few weeks ago in relation to a Hamilton v Falkirk game.
If I was to tell you it was 29 people arrested at Central Station last year with organised disorder involving fans from Ayr, Hibs, Rangers, Chelsea.
So this isn’t about targeting about Rangers and Celtic supporters, they will form the biggest bulk of the support, but if you actually look at the numbers that are being arrested, even for the bigger clubs, I think the last figures I checked up to this season, which took us to the end of February, I think there was something like 60 Celtic supporters had been arrested.
Now how many people have attended Celtic games, there’s nigh on 50 games that they’ve had this season, it must be not far off a million people, and 60 people have been arrested. It’s miniscule, but unfortunately, the view on the ground is that we’ve arrested hundreds of people and we’re targeting a particular group and we’ve arrested hundreds of them, and it’s simply not the case.
I think what the legislation does across the country it allows us to target offensive behaviour whether that’s at Stranraer, whether that’s at Ibrox or Peterhead.
For me, there’s a proportionate response to the games that we’re attending and clearly at Celtic, a million people watching them this season, Rangers have had a million people watching them this season, and actually guess what, you’re probably going to find that in a table of people being arrested, they’re going to be right up there, but actually when you look at the proportion or the numbers that we’re talking about, it’s miniscule.
I think at the moment we’re averaging something like 1.7 arrests per game in Scotland that we’ve been deployed at. So less than two people got arrested per game and the vast majority of people who are getting arrested at football in Scotland, it’s still for the old ones, it’s still for the folk getting into the stadium or being in the stadium while drunk, or carrying a controlled container.
So it’s still under previous legislation that the vast majority of folk are getting arrested for in Scotland. In terms of Offensive Behaviour Legislation, or its equivalent in common law that was used prior to March last year, the numbers are about the same and they’re probably … I think at the moment we’re probably up around about 300 or less than that, less than 300 this season and we’re marginally down on where we were this time last year. So there’s a downward trend in terms of arrests as well.
AM: The clubs are talking, well specifically Celtic and Rangers again, are talking about introducing songbooks. Now Rangers brought out the Wee Blue Book last year where it had all the songs from Follow Follow to Wolverhampton and so on. Do you think that will help the police from that perspective? I know it won’t deter certain others from singing the IRA songs, the rebel songs, obviously the add-ons as well, but do you think that is a positive or do you think it’s going to impact a 1984 style thing, you can sing this, but you can’t sing that.
SMcA: Do you know, I’m very uncomfortable about people being told, and I might sound bizarre bearing in mind that we’re trying to … but perish the thought that we, as an organisation, would be associated or had a view on what people could and couldn’t sing within a democratic environment.
When people ask me this question, okay it’s a matter for the club. If the club decide that’s the thing they want to go forward with actually, I always say to somebody, see if you’re at a football game, I accept that people get excited, if you’re sitting there and you’re about to sing something and you think it might be offensive, do you know what, you’re probably right. If something in the back of your mind has kicked in there, you shouldn’t sing it, you shouldn’t sing it, but you know, for me, I’m with you, I think the whole songbook thing is very 1984-ish and I don’t like that, I think people should be sensible and mature enough and understand what they’re singing.
In reality, we know that folk go away to games and they push and push and push and they know what they can and can’t do, I don’t think they need a songbook. They just need to support their clubs in a sensible fashion.
AM: To a certain extent, there’s been a lot of accusations and comments that football has now become a sterile environment, you’re told to sit down, you’re told not to sing this, not to sing that, if somebody does stand up the stewards come along and tell them to sit down. If not, then they try and eject them from the stadium and so on, and then obviously, if they don’t want to go then that blows up.
Do you think that some of the fun of the game has been taken out? Obviously the offensive songs, ‘the referee is a such and such,’ and screaming and shouting at an opposition player has always been part and parcel of the game for decades. Now do you think that from your own perspective, as a football fan, and then as a police officer as well.
SMcA: Well that’s a difficult one. I think that maybe something to do with the product from the park to be honest with you and I’ll be candid about that. I think there’s an element of that more than anything else. Not only that, I think society is changing in terms of what people do on a Saturday afternoon.
I’m pretty clear and my team are pretty clear what the difference is between an offence and satire, so I’m all for folk going having fun at football games.
I talk to fans’ groups all the time, particularly younger groups, I want to see … and it’s predominantly young guys because young guys are following the game, but there’s girls there as well. I want to see them associating with sport, I want to see them going along them and challenging and having fun and all the rest of it.
What I don’t want them to do is trip that line of offence. So, I see where you’re coming from there. I don’t know if that sterile atmosphere is necessarily to do with ground regulations and the way that stadia are set up.
I think some of it is to do with just society in general, and I don’t know what you do on the back of that to try and improve the razzmatazz around about the game.
I just don’t know, but I think a lot of it is to do with a product from the park, to be honest with you, I think of it more as excitement. I’ve been to loads of games, which have been brilliant this season, they haven’t tended to be in the premier league, I have to say, where there’s been good-natured banter that’s been good fun.
The actual entertainment has been great, and there’s been a lot of good SPL games as well. So I think a little bit about that is about what’s actually going on in the park and I think the issue lies there as opposed to the dynamic in and around the stadium, you know.
AM: Now there was a major issue in Gallowgate with the Green Brigade several months ago. From the police statements that I obtained at the time, on the day, stating it was an illegal march, they [fans]hadn’t got permission for it and so on and that the police had given them instructions that if you wanted to march to the ground we would allow you to do that under certain guidelines. The police statements stated that these guidelines were refused by the group, they ignored it and then they decided to proceed with the march anyway. Now, a lot of that has been ignored by the fans, specifically the Celtic fans because of that.
With those pictures spread across the world it paints a bad picture for the police force in Scotland when they only get one side of it, when it’s only the one fans’ group. Now, from your own perspective, or from your own experiences, why do you think the police on the ground used the tactic of kettling first of all?
SMcA: I wasn’t there and I’m not copping out of that question, I simply don’t know. It wasn’t my unit, I wasn’t on duty, I don’t know what the decision-making process was round about that. I do know that certainly, there was information on fan sites about a procession, I think they called it a Corteo or whatever.
So I do know that it was planned, but I do know there was no permission sought from the city council because you don’t apply to have permission from the police, it’s the city council, and there’s good reasons why you should apply for permission because the city council ultimately have the responsibility to almost ensure your safety.
Saturday afternoon in Glasgow there’s always a lot of events going in, so you’ve got to make sure that the fabric of the city is able to facilitate that and every other group, whether it’s WOBSA, The Orange Order, The SDL, Unite against Fascism, they all have to comply with that.
They all have to ask permission, but the Green Brigade feel they don’t have to do that and you need to ask them why if they wanted to have a legitimate protest, why they wouldn’t follow the rules and regulations that are no imposed by use, but imposed by the city council in relation to that.
So, I don’t know the background to it, I don’t know about the operational decision making on the day, I do know there was an enquiry in relation to it and there’s also a national enquiry ongoing in relation to those who were involved in the disorder and we’ll see where that goes. With you I don’t think it’s ever helpful that you see those kinds of scenes of police officers and whether it’s a fans’ group or any other, nobody likes to see confrontation, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Ultimately, there has to be a solution to that and the solution to that is to sit down and talk about it.
In relation to the Green Brigade, I know the club; I’ve tried, on numerous occasions, to sit down with them. I know my officers have repeatedly offered at games for their nameless, faceless leadership to come in, the way you’re doing, the way that MPs, MSPs, fans’ groups, have been in this office, or we’ll go to them and sit down and have a full and frank discussion about policing of football, where ultimately they may walk out the door and have to agree to disagree, but the reality is, what the fans’ groups will understand is they will understand the operational nature of policing. Actually, what we’ll get is a bit of feedback of how they feel when they’re being policed.
I don’t think for a minute, and I don’t mean specifically about this incident, I don’t think for a minute we get it right all the time, of course we don’t, operational decision-making is fraught at times because you can make errors of judgement. Sometimes just the way that a police officer approaches somebody, whether it’s a happy, smiling face, or whether it’s a grim face can make a huge difference.
I’m an experienced match commander and ground commander, and it’s the same at every briefing. The first thing we’re there to do is facilitate a sporting event in a safe fashion. The second bit is to make sure the wider footprint of that event will always have an input in the community around about them. You’ve got to lessen that impact and allow people to go about their lawful business, but you’re there to facilitate a sporting event and every police officer who polices a football game in Scotland completely understands this.
This isn’t a security event with a football match bolted on the end, it’s the other way around, it’s a football match with a wee bit of security on it.
We’ve tried to discuss that with people but there’s no doubt there are certain individuals and there are certain groups who don’t want to interact with us and actually what happened is ‘manna from heaven’ for them. They’ll use that as their way of justifying their behaviour.
So I don’t know specifically what happened, but it’ll come out in the wash because there’s an enquiry into it, I believe a number of folk have complained as well, so that will be investigated and you’ll be given an explanation in relation to their complaint.
AM: As you said earlier on, police officers, whether it’s your FOCUS Unit, they go into the ground with cameras, handheld cameras or credit card sized cameras on their jackets and so on. Now with all the allegations of intimidation, heavy handiness, obviously certain individuals have stated that there have been some choice language thrown at them by police officers and so on. Do you think that if the footage from these cameras, from the police; if they were ever made public, they would actually change the public’s perspective?
SMcA: Well, I don’t know, they might because the footage is made public in so much they are shown in courtrooms and that’s a matter of public record, albeit I have to say sometimes in a courtroom there’s not that many people in it. The evidence that’s out there becomes a matter of public record. I don’t know would it change perspectives and stuff like that.
I would be very disappointed if anyone under my command who would use choice language against a member of the public, that is unacceptable and what I would say to that is if anyone feels affected by that, do you know what, they should complain, they should complain in relation to that.
The camera is an interesting one because one of the things we get a lot is that we put folk under constant surveillance, which is nonsense. The credit card cameras, albeit they are pinned onto the body armour of our officers and are there all the time, they actually have to be activated, so people assume…
AM: That they’re running all the time.
SMcA: And they’re not. You actually have to physically activate them. The handheld cameras have to be activated as well, they’ll self-deploy if they feel that something is happening that they will have to capture the evidence of it, or the match commander might say, ‘I want you to activate your cameras. I want you to use your handheld camera for that part of the stadium,’ because they’re absolutely clear, we do know that impacts on the dynamics of the crowd.
I’ve said this and I’ve said it in The Herald recently, that one of the last games my team had been at, I said to them on the Monday, I said, ‘you’ll be at the Celtic game,’ I think it was Celtic v Dundee. I said, ‘How much videoing did you do?’ The sergeant said, ’30 seconds.’ He said, ‘it was pretty quiet, there were no issues. At one point I thought they were going to sing an offensive song, I took the camera out, 30 seconds of video footage,’ he said, ‘at the end of the game there was nothing of evidential value, I deleted it on the spot.’
Of course, I went on a few websites the following day and I was getting tellers on there saying, ‘He clearly doesn’t go to many games blah-de-blah-de-blah,’ and I’m thinking …that camera room is next door. They come in, they download all of the stuff and we’ve got a lad whose main job is to do to training on that, but also to ensure that we’re compliant with the Data Protection Act. So he goes in and regularly boots the rest of them up the backside if they haven’t deleted the stuff that should have been deleted because we’re allowed to hang onto it for evidential intelligence training purposes.
I know that’s quite wide, but in reality, particularly recently, the amount of video footage that we’ve taken of fans has been negligible and we only take it to gather evidence, we don’t use it for surveillance.
We couldn’t use it for surveillance because you need to have a surveillance authority in position for that. The things that we’re doing, they’re dynamic, they’re part of police operations, there’s no way we’d get a surveillance authority, there’s no way we’d ask for a surveillance authority for anything like that, it just wouldn’t merit it, they are evidential gathering techniques and they are used very sparingly, but do people believe me, they just don’t believe me.
I’ve offered and I’ve shown them to MPs, I’ve brought them in, I’ve shown the video footage of the team of video footage that we’ve got. I’ve shown them the system that we’ve got. I’ve shown them the audit in terms of how things are managed, deleted and all the rest of it, but if people have got a view and it suits the narrative that the police have got them under constant surveillance from the moment they enter the stadium until they leave, trying to break that down can be very difficult, but it’s simply not the case.
AM: Do you think it’s more, especially with some of the groups, certain MSPs, MPs or individuals within other groups that they feel that using the police and their tactics in regard to camera footage and this new bill works in their favour with regard to an agenda driven against them and with regard to the public itself? Like a police state?
SMcA: Well listen, I can understand why people may go down that line. Actually, as a police officer, I kind of go down the other line because in reality, if you’re not doing anything and you’re captured on a piece of video, it’s just as likely to exculpate you as being involved in that incident as it is to going to conviction.
So you got lifted at a football match because you’re wearing the same kind of top as the guy next to you, which isn’t uncommon at a football game, and you go, ‘Hang on, that wasn’t me!’ You go back and you pull the camera out and you go, ‘Do you know, he’s right actually, that’s not him, it’s the guy next to him that we’re after, really sorry about that. We acted in good faith,’ but you see a few years ago, say if that cop was convinced that you were the person responsible, you’d have been huckled and jailed and sent to court.
I know for a fact, because I know they do it and we have a debrief every Monday, and I’ve sat with one of my cops and he’d got the details of two … because a lot of the time, what we don’t like doing, unless it’s serious is arresting people on the spot and dragging them out of the crowd. It’s not good for the crowd dynamics, but there is an element that we have to go away and review.
If you get 50 or 60 people who you think are singing offensive songs or whatever, you’re not going to arrest 50 or 60 people, so you might concentrate on what you deem to be the worst offenders and gather the best evidence against it. So you’ll come back and then we’ll review it on a Monday and go, actually, we have got his details and we’ve got his details and we actually say, ‘He is doing that, but he’s not.’
So that person will never know that the enquiry that we’ve done, the retrospective enquiry that we’ve done has actually proved that they weren’t involved in that. So then of course, when you come into a police office now, from the moment you come in through the back door, you’re being videoed and it’s for everybody’s protection, it’s for the police officers, it’s for the individual that’s in custody. You’re more liable to be captured I don’t know how many times on CCTV walking into a football match in Scotland and actually the stadium, on the stadium CCTV, than you will be captured on a handheld camera by one of my officers.
AM: A couple of years ago I read that there’s more CCTV cameras in the UK than there are in America.?
SMcA: We’re a very surveillance… I think there is, in terms of society and again, we use our video capability very sparingly, but in years to come I’ve got absolutely no doubt, and it’s happening already, cops will be walking about with these cameras on a Friday and Saturday night and they’ll switch it on if they go and speak to somebody because there’s always the allegations that he swore at me or she swore at me, or he … as an area commander, see the complaints that I would get in terms of … from members of the public against officers.
They’re going on about, ‘He assaulted me,’ virtually never any issue about an officer’s integrity. It was always about civility, it was always about actually he swore at me. I’m thinking I’m just not getting this, but a lot of it is, for me as we move forwards, again all the police are doing is using the best available technology, catching up with that, and whether people like it or not, I think in years to come you’ll find that officers will have access to more and more… we’re moving into the area of electronic notebooks now, so we’re not even… we’re getting away from pen and paper, everyone does it, it’s almost like a smartphone.
So we’re moving into the area of mobile data. As an organisation we’re catching up with best technology and I think it’s here for the protection of everybody, not just the police. I just think that people automatically assume that when you pull out a camera it’s intrusive and it’s there to capture you doing something.
Actually, it might be there to prove your innocence as well because somebody has made an error of judgement. Somebody may have pointed out, ‘see that guy there, he just swore at me,’ or, ‘that guy there, he assaulted me,’ because the first thing we would do is go and get stadium CCTV to see if we’ve got any evidence to prove that. Actually, we can say, ‘He didn’t, he was defending himself because actually that guy there hit him first.’
So, I can’t understand why a lot of folk get really angsty about this. If we had our cameras on them for the 90 minutes of every single game, and before they come into the stadium I would get their point, but it’s simply not the case, it’s not the case.
AM: Now the Fans Against Criminalisation organised a protest in George Square at the start of April. Obviously you go on intelligence based on individuals and so on at games, or individuals going to games and so on, now in regard to a group of protestors like that, would FOCUS be dealing with that at all, or would it just be left to the division?
SMcA: That would be left to the division when I say we’re intelligence-led, Andy, what I say in relation to that is there’s a game on Saturday, whatever, does that team have a group of people that follow them that may get involved in violence and disorder and actually historically, yes they do. Does that team have a group of people who follow them who occasionally may get involved in singing offensive songs; actually, they do because we have evidence e in relation to that.
So do you know what, we’re going to make sure we have officers at that particular game? See that game there; is there any indication previously or any common intelligence to suggest that there’s going to be any issues at that game? No, we’re not going to it, but in terms of the demonstration on 6th April, that is purely an event that will be managed by the local division.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m convinced that my staff will be deployed at the game afterwards because that’s what we do, we may get a request for assistance, but that’s not routine business for us in terms of any public order issue or policing any demonstrations. We’re about football.
AM: Do you think the media on occasion are more of a hindrance than help with the way they publicise stories?
SMcA: Well, you know, we’ve got to live with the media, but we’re not daft, the media like to sensationalise. So I’m sure there’s … in fact I wasn’t about much last weekend, but I’m sure that the media had lots of nice, juicy headlines around about the disorder in the Gallowgate, that’s manna from heaven for a lot of the papers.
AM: There’s a couple in newspapers and on sites where you’ve got the police officers drawing their batons, but then that’s taking that out of context. Then there’s obviously the one where there’s a wee girl at the far end, and again, it’s through the legs of the protesters and police and so on, and again, that’s taken out of context.
SMcA: She was obviously terrified. We don’t know how she got there or what happened and all the rest of it. We’ve got to work with the media and that’s just the way it is and we’ve got two different jobs to do. In reality, we need the media as much as they need us as in when we need put a call out for witnesses or vulnerable missing persons we need the media.
We need the print media, we need the online media so it’s important we’ve got a good working relationship with them, but in reality, there’ll always be folk out there who want to paint their version of events.
I’ve been quite surprised by some journalists that have taken a real interest in some of this stuff, that it’s not within their normal area of business. They may be a local government correspondent, but suddenly they’re on about what’s happening in football because they’ll go with what they think is a good story and it fits into the narrative of conspiracy theories about the police are doing this or doing that and they’re grey-smoking surveillance and all the rest of it. I’m thinking, ‘Well …!’ I mean I had somebody ask me a question about was it true that our counter terrorism units were involved in all this because quote, ‘They’ve got nothing better to do.’
Are you being serious? Is that a serious question? How do you want me to answer to that? ‘That’s what a source told me!’ I’m thinking where do you want to go with this? It’s ludicrous.
AM: Now Celtic came out with a statement recently saying they are opposed to the bill and the act in general, working practices with the clubs where Celtic, Rangers and other clubs, obviously they have to be civil with the police and so on, do you think there’s any resistance among the clubs?
SMcA: In reality, our line to the clubs is through the match commanders. So occasionally the pre-match briefings, things such as that, and in general what we do as in the police, we deal with the safety officer and all the rest of it, and actually the relationships across Scotland between the police and the safety officers, the operations people, are very good because we need each other. They need us to run the event, we need them to run the event, it’s their stadium, it’s their stewarding, they know the place inside out, they know it better than us.
So, on the ground operationally, we’ve got a very good working relationship. I’ve not been in any of the boardrooms; I’ve not spoken directly to any of the chief executives and stuff, so privately I don’t know what their views are or what the views of their board are.
Football clubs have got a difficult job in a very tough, commercial environment with not a great product on the ground at times to survive, so there is a different agenda there.
We have the Police Operational Safety Agenda, you’ve got the safety agenda of a club and then you’ve got the commercial agenda of the club and sometimes it’s difficult to square all of that, there’s absolutely no doubt about it.
That’s not just the same with football, that can be any type of event management. Some of the major events we’ve run at Hampden, the Robbie Williams and all the rest of it, you’re constantly balancing the need for safety and security against the commercial interests of the promoter or the owner.
I’ve policed several foreign games and probably one of my worst nights in the police has been Robbie Williams where people are just collapsing through drink.
The good thing about football these days, you still get drunkenness, I first started going to football in the seventies and lived through the eighties and all the rest of it. Football is tough these days compared to what it was then and compared to your average Take That or Robbie Williams concert, I have to say, absolutely.
AM: And do you think … I know some of the First division clubs had contemplated bringing back alcohol into the stadium, just sounding it out, but they’d have to get authorisation from obviously the councils and so on as well, do you think from the police point of view that’s a good idea?
SMcA: Any police officer that stood up and said that was a good idea would be ending their career very swiftly. It’s interesting because you do get alcohol in grounds, don’t you, but it’s in a corporate environment, you don’t tend to get it within the mainstream as in England and Wales, I can’t see that ever coming back.
AM: Specifically Partick Thistle because they did have Glasgow Warriors last season and before that.
SMcA: You can drink at a Warriors game. But I’ll guarantee you right now, the police view, unless it’s somebody who’s retiring and it’s the last day of their service will say, ‘bring drink back,’ but you’re never going to get the police to buy that. I think to be candid and to be serious for a minute around about that, Scotland and particularly the West of Scotland has a huge issue with alcohol and violence and I think the reality is to actually put alcohol or encourage alcohol use more than we’ve got is not a good way to go.
We’ve got a long way to go as a society to curb our very unfortunate association with school. Sadly, it’s uniquely Scottish, in a lot of respects.
Yes, you see it in England and Wales as well on any Friday and Saturday night, but you don’t see it on the continent, you simply don’t, you don’t see it in Italy or Spain or The Netherlands where people are very relaxed around about that.
I think we’ve got a whole load of issues to sort out around about use of alcohol and access to alcohol before you can even contemplate whether you do it within the confines of a sporting event.
But I do take the point that you can go and watch rugby and have a few drinks, but you can’t go and watch the national team, or certainly not at home.
AM: You would need that after watching them.
SMcA: I often say that to some of them, you’re probably better going … it would be helpful to have to watch a Scotland game with a skinful in your belly. I say that as a longstanding football fan and fan of Scotland. At least I’m old enough to remember to at least getting to some world cups.
AM: Now moving on from present day, a year from now what would you want FOCUS to achieve, football to achieve, society to achieve?
SMcA: That’s an interesting one. I think from our point of view I think we want to be more intelligence driven in terms of making sure that we’re going to the right games, that we are targeting the right types of behaviour in terms of that offensive behaviour.
I’m not talking about individuals or particular groups here, but actually, going along, building up an assessment of we need to go to that game because I think there’s going to be an issue around about that.
So I want to see … actually I’d like to see less arrests in terms of I want to see that downward trend of less people being arrested because that’s a good indication to us that the legislation and our efforts are having an impact within sport, within football. I want us, I want people, I want the clubs, I want the websites, I want the fans to continue to self-police in terms of behaviour and as a consequence we just have to gradually withdraw some of our resource because it’s a very precious resource in terms of policing and there’s areas that we could redirect our resource into as well.
I want to make sure that the environment, this is the real overriding principle this, I want to make sure that football – it’s troubling times for football in Scotland, I want it to be a safe, pleasant environment for folk to go and watch.
That’s a very high-end objective in relation to that, where people can go and have a laugh and poke fun at the opposition and be satirical in their approach and all the rest of it. We see some really good, inventive stuff going on at football grounds with banners and all the rest of it. Actually, they ultimately are really funny, and some people might take offence, but do you know what, they need to get a sense of humour in relation to that.
So yeah, I want to see less offensive behaviour, I would like to see almost less need for our services and ultimately us mainstreaming what we do through Scotland.
Ultimately, it’s about the reduction of violence, disorder and antisocial behaviour, it’s about keeping people safe within that particular environment. That’s no different to what we do in every other aspect of our work, it just so happens that me and my small team are dedicated to football just now.
Note: The Offensive Behaviour in Football Act has now been repealed as of April 2018